In April of 1870 our church was organized as the German United Evangelical St. Peter’s Congregation in Sumner, Kankakee, Illinois
On September 26th, 1870 the Heusing family donated two acres of land for a church cemetery and the cemetery was officially dedicated on October 20th, 1870.
Plans for building the first church were made in January of 1872; however, during the next few years a split occurred within the congregation and on May 19th, 1878 the congregation was reorganized as the German Evangelical St. Peter’s Society.
CC Campbell donated land on the corner of Stanley and Curtis for the construction of the church and the construction was finalized on March 2nd, 1879 at a total cost of $1,076.
The first church parsonage was built in the fall of 1881.
On July 12th, 1887, eight women became charter members of the congregation and several years later a schoolhouse was built next to the church.
During the next decade several interesting feats occurred at the church.
- A church bell was purchased for $155 and the bell tolled every Saturday evening for over 80 years.
- The first body for a funeral was brought into the church (1891).
- The church celebrated its 25th anniversary (1895).
- The church debt was paid off (1899).
On Sunday, April 21st 1912 a tornado struck Grant Park and the church and school were destroyed.
The altar was untouched and the church Bible remained open to Romans 10:8-15. The theme of those verses was “One great prize of God’s love is our pilgrimage of our faith.”
The pilgrimage of St. Peter’s continued as the congregation voted 42 to 2 in favor to rebuild a new church at the current location. The original vote was to build the church of all brick but there was some controversy. Five weeks later a second vote was taken to frame the building with brick veneer, costing the church $8,914.76 excluding furnishings.
On March 2nd, 1913 the new church building was dedicated.
Two services in German were held (10 am & 2 pm) and an evening English service was held as well.
The church parsonage was constructed beside the church for $4,327.76 and the old parsonage was sold to Mr. & Mrs. Edwin Heldt.
The Reverend Arno Zimmerman became the first pastor of the congregation on April 19th, 1914 and because he was the first minister with a car, a garage was added to the parsonage.
While services in 1914 continued primarily in German, the fees set for having funeral services in English were higher than that of services in German.
During the same year a Men’s Brotherhood (Churchman’s League) and the Evangelical League (Youth) were both established within the congregation.
A sewing circle called Tabitha was formed in 1915.
The 1920’s celebrated the 50th church anniversary as services were held during the morning, afternoon, and evening.
As the use of the English language became more dominant tensions arose as changes were slowly being implemented.
In 1921 confirmation classes were being taught in both English and German which led to the first official class being instructed and confirmed in English in 1923.
1923 also noted hitching posts removed from the church cemetery and was the year city water was installed on the church property.
The church constitution was penned in 1930 in both German and English while official church records were kept primarily in English.
A year later the church began its collection of money via the envelope system.
1934 brought about the merging of the Evangelical Synod of North America and the Reformed Church leading to the renaming of the church to “St. Peter’s Evangelical & Reformed Church.”
By 1936 the church began to gradually discontinue having services in German.
The Cemetery Association of the St. Peter’s E&R Church of Grant Park formed in 1938.
Two notable occurrences took place in the 1940’s with the first being the installation of some of the stained glass windows in the church and the renovation of the church basement.
Secondly, a re-dedication of St. Peter’s was celebrated with a week long Diamond Jubilee Celebration the week of April 15-22, 1945.
The following decade saw substantial improvements to the facility and more continued growth as the church merged with the United Church of Christ and the Congregational Church bodies as St. Peter’s became officially UCC in the late 1950’s.
During the decade additional stained glass windows were added, another acre was purchased for the Heusing Cemetery, a new fence was put around the cemetery (1956), a lighted bulletin board was installed, and plans to start remodeling the kitchen and church were drafted. It was also noted that pew communion was introduced to the congregation in 1959.
New entryways to the church graced the church building in the 1960s and the land south of the parsonage was leveled and made into a lighted, asphalt parking lot.
In 1964 a worship service featured the “Hanging of the Greens” for the first time and the church newsletter, “The Keys,” was produced.
The first Christmas Eve candlelight service was held in 1966 and in 1967 two Easter services were introduced.
The 1960’s also witnessed two parcels of land purchased south of the parking lot, a choir loft erected in the NE corner of the sanctuary, Mrs. Ruth Schneider hired as the church’s first secretary, and a pictorial directory was created.
St. Peter’s celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1970 with four Sundays of centennial events.
During the first 100 years (1870 – 1970) we had: 1,193 baptisms 845 confirmations 327 marriages 555 burials Church membership was 388 in 1970
By 1974 a new Christian Education addition was added to the church.
In the 1980’s a new Allen electric organ and a chair lift were purchased with Memorial Funds and a renovation of the sanctuary was done in 1985-1986 with a dedication taking place June 28th, 1986.
The church fellowship hall and kitchen renovations were completed in 1992 and towards the end of the decade a new roof was put on the church (1999).
In 2001 several renovations took place in the church parsonage, in 2004 new hymnals were purchased, the restoration and recovery of the stained glass windows was finished in 2007, and the restoration of the bell tower finalized in 2010.